Faculty & Staff

Dr. Darden Purcell

Director of Jazz Studies | Jazz Voice

Associate Professor of Music

  • Applied Jazz Voice
  • Mason Jazz Vocal Ensemble
  • Jazz & Blues in America
  • Jazz Pedagogy


  • B.F.A. Jazz Performance, Virginia Polytechnic and State University
  • M.M. Jazz Performance, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • D.M.A. Jazz Performance, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Darden Purcell is an active featured soloist with symphony orchestras, big bands and small ensembles, band leader and vocal instructor. Ms. Purcell has shared the stage with many top jazz artists including Eric Alexander, Terell Stafford, Jim Pugh, Chip McNeill, Dana Hall, Alan Baylock, Glenn Wilson, Stockton Helbing, Byron Stripling, Bobby Floyd, Joel Spencer, Darmon Meader, Lisanne Lyons, Jim Carroll, Charlie Young, Chris Vadala, the Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra, the US Navy Commodores, Naval Academy Big Band, Next Wave, The Airmen of Note, US Army Blues and the American Festival Pops Orchestra (Tony Maiello) performing at concert halls and clubs nationally and internationally, including Blues Alley, Club Bonafide (NYC), Pops for Champagne, The Jazz Kitchen, The Blue Wisp, The Kitchen Cafe, The Bop Stop, JazzB (Sao Paulo, Brazil), Sandler Center (back-up vocals for Ben Folds) Meyerhoff Center (BSO), Wolf Trap for the Performing Arts (NSO) and The Kennedy Center (back-up vocals for Mr. George Benson, Sara Bareilles and Caroline Shaw). Dr. Purcell is the Director of Jazz Studies, Jazz Voice Instructor and Director of the Mason Jazz Vocal Ensemble at George Mason University.

Ms. Purcell is a former Washington DC Air Force Band vocalist, with the groups High Flight and the Airmen of Note, performing nationally and internationally, including Germany, Italy, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Purcell performed back-up vocals for nationally renowned recording artists, Chaka Khan, BeBe Winans, Bryan White, Lari White, Janie Frickie, Freda Payne, Sherrie Payne, Gloria Loring, Melba Moore and Rita Coolidge as well as a televised performance behind Darlene Love on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

In addition to her active performing schedule, Dr. Purcell is a sought-after jazz vocal educator and clinician. Her groups have been invited to perform at the New York Voices Jazz Festival, Western Michigan’s Gold Company Jazz Vocal Invitational, the 2012 Jazz Education Network (JEN) conference and the Kansas City Jazz Summit. Dr. Purcell has served on the faculty of the W.O. Smith Music School camp (Nashville), Illinois Summer Youth Music, George Mason Summer Jazz Workshop, National Jazz Workshop, MAT Camp (WY) and Augusta Heritage Center (WV).

She has been a guest artist/clinician at Capital University, Illinois Wesleyan University, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech, Southern Nazarene University, Tiffin University and Indiana State School Music Association. Her students have won “Outstanding soloist” and “Outstanding Musicianship” awards at collegiate festivals as well as Downbeat Student Music Awards. Spring 2016, the Mason Jazz Vocal Ensemble was awarded “Outstanding Ensemble” at the Kansas City Jazz Summit and in January 2018, the Mason Jazz Vocal Ensemble was a featured collegiate ensemble at the JEN conference in Dallas, TX.

May 2018, Darden was honored to present at the Institute for Jazz Research “Jazz Voices” conference in Graz, Austria and March 2020, through a George Mason University Global Education grant, she performed at Projeto GURI and JazzB in Sao Paulo Brazil.

Dr. Purcell received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Vocal Jazz Performance at Virginia Tech, a Master of Music and a Doctor of Musical Arts in Jazz Performance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Darden’s CDs, Easy Living and Where the Blue Begins, produced by Stockton Helbing with arrangements by Shawn Purcell, can be purchased at iTunes, Amazon at at dardenpurcell.com.​

Contact Dr. Purcell:  dpurcel2@gmu.edu
Visit Darden Purcell online:  www.dardenpurcell.com